Brazilian driver Felipe Drugovich was crowned the 2017 MRF Challenge champion at the Madras Motor Race Track (MMRT) in Chennai. The 17-year-old completed the first two races of the weekend in third and sixth place respectively, but that was enough to seal the championship.
In Race 1, Presley Martono made a good start to lead into the first corner, with Rinus van Kalmthout slotting into second place after passing Drugovich. Van Kalmthout then passed Martono around the outside of the third corner, immediately pulling away as Martono fended off Drugovich and Julien Falchero. Drugovich tried to put pressure on Martono but the Indonesian held his ground.
Van Kalmthout comfortably won the first race of the weekend with Martono in second place ahead of Drugovich. During the race, Van Kalmthout also became the first ever driver to break the 1min 30secs barrier as he set a new lap record at the MMRT, with a time of 1min 29.967secs.
Before the reverse grid Race 2 started, Drugovich was given a 10 place penalty for a fuel infringement and had to start the race way back from 14th place. Polesitter Alex Karkosik had the perfect start and led into the first corner ahead of Danial Frost. There was chaos at Turn 2 as Manuel Maldonado, Pavan Ravishankar and Perdana Minang all crashed. Falchero, who is in a tight battle for second place in the championship, was forced to retire after making contact with van Kalmthout. There was more action as race leader Karkosik spun out of the lead, causing the race to be red flagged with five cars being out.
At the restart, Frost led ahead of Martono and van Kalmthout. However, he ran wide on lap 11, allowing both the drivers to get past. Martono went on to win the race ahead of van Kalmthout and Frost.
Finishing sixth gave Drugovich the points he needed to win the title with two races still remaining.
“It feels fantastic to win the championship. I have not been happy with the balance of the car today but I just did what I had to win the championship. This year has been great and consistency has been the main reason behind my title win. The weekend in Abu Dhabi stands out as the most memorable moment of this championship,” said Drugovich.